Time captured

Article written by Dawn McLachlan for Huntly Development Trust

The No30 Time Capsule is now safely tucked away beneath the floor and will probably not be seen again in my lifetime. When Huntly Development Trust asked me if I would collect and curate the contents of the time capsule, I relished the challenge. It was an opportunity to count my blessings by looking at all the independent businesses and activities going on in the town, and there was no shortage of them!

Collecting items for a time capsule is a fascinating process. My career in libraries began in a local history archive back in the late 80s and curating items then was a far simpler process. When I first looked at the kind of items to place in a local history archive, we were living in a time of printed items. Every shop, activity, service, and community occasion generated something in print. There were flyers, posters, brochures, and catalogues all easily available. These were easy to catalogue and file and adding in photographs rounded everything off.

Time capsule contents

Whizz forward 30+ years and we are in the digital age where printing is expensive, and we are all doing our bit to save paper. Most of us no longer have our photos printed and catalogues and brochures are all online. This does make the process of curating a time capsule a bit trickier, but not impossible.

A time capsule is very different to a local history archive because I was not preserving general history but instead recording a moment of our social history. I tried to think what I would like to discover in a time capsule and what I would find interesting in the future. As our town has quite a large and active digital presence there were lots of things that I did not need to include. There was no point in putting in things about the general or political scene in the Shire or Scotland as a whole and I wanted to keep the focus very much on Huntly. There was also no point in putting in masses of photographs because the digital images of Huntly are well archived already. Instead, I chose to concentrate on things that are unique to our wonderful wee toon.

It was important to me to try and capture a sense of the town in the last few years. There is no doubt that we have come through the most challenging of times and I wanted the capsule contents to show a little of that. Huntly is an amazingly resilient place, and I felt very lucky to live here through times that were devastating to many communities. To reflect that I wanted to not only have things from the dozens of local businesses, but also items giving a taste of the community groups who are improving the quality of our life here. Obviously it was important to have things that showed some of our sadness too; the businesses who didn’t make it through the pandemic, a face mask, a covid test, the letter we were sent for our vaccinations, the sign we hung on our doors when the gas went off, the letter we were sent when our water went off… all of these things are part of the last few years. I hope that the contents of the capsule will give future Huntly folk a real taste of what life was like here in the early 2020s.

It took a couple of months to gather everything together and I know that there were still things I would have liked to include. Inside the future folk of Huntly will find leaflets and flyers from events going on around the town as well as takeaway menus, business cards, leaflets about local information and services, some advertising pamphlets, the programme from the Strathbogie Horticultural Society Annual Show, and the Huntly Hairst leaflet. As well as this there are some more personal items including a player list from Huntly FC and a short note on a beautiful photograph from local photographer, Dave Simpson, and the beautiful music and voice of Iona Fyfe. There is so much going on in Huntly that it would need a chest instead of a wee time capsule to hold them all! It was a squeeze getting everything into the steel tube, but eventually the bolts were tightened and into the ground it went. A small group of folk donned hard hats and had a sneak peek inside No30 as local celeb, Pat Scott, did the honours and popped the capsule into the floor.

Pat said a few words, as did our own Carolyn Powell, and copies of both speeches were also in the capsule. Pat made a very good point in asking that the capsule be opened during the lifetime of the young folk who have been involved in many ways in No30, and who will be the users of the building for years long after the restoration has been taken for granted.

When the building is open and in use there will be a plaque to remind everyone of the time capsule nestling 1.5metres down beneath the floor. When you walk over it, I hope you remember all the things we have been through in the last few years and feel a sense of pride about how we came through it together. I hope you will enjoy the fully restored No30 and that it will be a reminder of the history of Huntly and an important part in writing its future. I think that my favourite item in the capsule is a letter from a local schoolboy. Joshua McNeill has written a letter to the future in the form of a Day in the Life of a Huntly Boy and I hope that in the years to come when he and his friends walk over the capsule they have cause to think back to Huntly in 2022, and to look forward to life in the future.

An excellent opportunity!

No.30 Café Bar Expressions of Interest now open

Whilst the main focus of attention in this project so far has been the refurbishment works, and it’s hard to miss a huge scaffolded building right in the middle of the town centre and with so much excitement about what it will bring; behind the scenes, a highly skilled group of community volunteers, working alongside HDT have been doing an enormous amount of work to help bring the future of its varied uses together.

The first milestone has been reached today as we can now announce that invitations for Expressions of Interest to operate the new No.30 café are now open. Follow this link for full information. https://www.huntlydt.org/what-we-do/town-centre/no-30-the-square

This is a wonderful opportunity for an operator who is looking for a really special location in a beautiful historic town and within a newly refurbished iconic building which will have lots of exciting activity going on. This an opportunity not to miss.

Details of how to find out more and apply are contained within the link above.

External elevations No.30 – LDN Architects
Image for illustration only, design may vary.
Image for illustration only, design may vary

Update on our Swifts

Cally here from Huntly & District Swift Group. 

I just thought I would write a quick update on swift activity around No.30 before I head off to Segovia.  I will be attending the 6th International Swift Conference which has been held off for two years so looking forward to that.   The city of Segovia welcomes its Common Swift population each April and we (people from many swift conservation groups worldwide) will be welcomed tomorrow evening by the Mayor of Segovia.  The Segovia swifts nest in the enormous Roman Aqueduct which dominates the city and is constructed with large stones but no mortar enabling the swifts to access the gaps between to nest!

Anyway back to Huntly.  The swifts arrived in Huntly bang on time on the 10th May, did their usual disappearing act for a few days and numbers aren’t seeming to be great just now but should increase.  My largest count over the Square was 17. 

There is great activity in the colony next door to No.30 for which I am relieved but nothing to report as yet in the temporary nest boxes.  One afternoon I watched one swift arc’ing repeatedly at the boxes on the frontage so that’s a good sign, however not yet the adult breeders return that I had hoped for initially. The activity at the Carpet shop being so close by will encourage interest and hopefully the non-breeding birds when they arrive in earnest. 

There is plenty of time yet for the swifts to take up occupancy, but it may turn out that the returning established breeders are put off which would be a great shame because they would fail to breed this year but then may investigate again next year or may find somewhere else to go next year.  That would not be the result hoped for, but this mitigation is the only solution available for a build that spans one or several breeding seasons. 

There are risks.  Of course the hope is the boxes may be taken up by the younger birds during the exciting screaming parties that will develop over the next couple of months, they may investigate and roost, imprint for next year and hopefully return to breed. 

It’s a process and we do all we can to encourage!  Incidently I fear we have some sparrows already homing in on some of the boxes – the inevitable – and we are not one species over another but there are pros and cons to this ……that’s for another day!  I believe there was a comment was made regarding the boxes being taped up before the swifts arrived – the reason for doing this is NOT to exclude other species at all but to give the returning swifts the best possible chance of finding their ‘home’.  Swifts are territorial and can enter into fights that can go on for an hour in order to defend their nesting site and we want to minimise this amount of stress to both parties should other birds get in first! Swifts have travelled 8,000 miles non-stop to get here and are exhausted, they don’t need a stand off. 

I encourage people to contact me for further information on what we are doing, I am more than delighted to explain our actions. There is an information board on the hoardings around No.30 which briefly explains the project and has contact details for anyone interested in knowing more.

Some  local people are keen to help with surveying throughout the season which allows me to continue being in all manner of other places around the north east but I will keep monitoring No.30 myself as well as much as possible.  I will be hoping for some good data that I can collate and then  summarise the goings on at the end of the season.  If anyone is interested in joining the survey group please let me know. We have some Swift Walk and Talk events beginning this month, you can check out the dates on our facebook page ‘events’ #huntlyswiftgroup or get in touch direct T: 07411 808573 or e: huntlyswiftgroup@gmail.com.

Thanks for your interest and support – Cally

Beautiful swifts!

As many know, Huntly town Square is home to a colony of beautiful swifts who have been returning to nest, year after year for generations. When a large building like No.30 is home to swifts, it’s imperative that, when work is being done, measures are taken so that the swifts are protected to ensure their safety and survival. We are being assisted and advised in these measures by both an expert ecologist from Landcare Northeast, together with The Huntly and District Swift Group, who will be monitoring the process during the whole construction period. We’re very grateful for this invaluable support as its helps the contractors and HDT implement what has to be done to make sure all is well with this precious species.

Cally Smith from The Huntly and District Swift Group has provided the following update on No.30 swift protection;

Here is a brief update on an exciting project we are involved with in the ‘birth place’ of the Huntly & District Swift Group! This is a listed building which is home to an extremely active swift colony which I have been surveying since 2017. The regeneration of this building to form a multi use community facility is going to be extensive and will span possibly a couple of swift breeding seasons.

The scaffold and wrap is now installed as you can see, and their are 10 Model 30 external boxes fitted to the scaffold to replicate exactly the position of the existing nest sites, plus a couple more boxes for good measure.

We will run two call systems one for each elevation to encourage the returning breeding swifts and can only pray they will take to their temporary accommodation. This kind of project has worked before in England and Europe so we can do no more but try. You can see these particular projects at www.swiftconservation.org The original nesting sites will be reinstated as is once that stage arrives, plus I hope we will be able to pop in a few more!

I am so very grateful to everyone involved with this, they have taken on board all my suggestions for mitigation and are very happy to work with us on protecting and further enhancing this very important colony. Huntly Development Trust and Bancon Construction are pulling out all the stops for our Aviators and i am so very thankful for the advice I received from Edward at Swift Conservation. The appointed ecologist Landcarenortheast is fully onboard and Aberdeenshire Council are looking at this project with great interest. It will become a precedent for future swift projects in the area.

Only time will tell if this is going to work and I know for sure with the help of some volunteers we will be keeping a close eye throughout the season. I will possibly have a tent set up outside all summer!!!

#savetheaviators #swiftconservation #huntlydevelopmenttrust #banconhomes #landcarenortheast

January 2022

A New Year and lots of work to do!

No.30 project contractors, Bancon, returned to site in unusually warm weather for January, having resolved the scaffolding set-up matters prior to the Christmas break so they’re now very busy working with the architects and the Design Team, preparing for the next stages of the work, internally and externally.

A great deal is currently being done by structural engineers around measurements for the steel that will be installed into the back right hand side of the building – the area which will contain the cinema/performance box. This, along with timber and damp work, and confirming many of the projects fine details, means that although the site looks quiet, it really isn’t, there’s a huge amount of crucial work taking place.

A community notice board containing photos and updates is planned for the exterior of the building to be attached to the barrier fencing on the frontage to the Square. This will provide an interesting insight into what’s going on inside as we’re all curious to know what’s happening behind the fencing, so this should be a good way of showing how the build is progressing.

We’re delighted that Bancon are keen to support our project photographer, Elaine Esson, to allow her access to the site at regular intervals during the process to take photographs to document the changes as they happen. This will create a very interesting resource for the future showing the details of the building and the historic features that have revealed themselves. Some of these photographs will appear on the external noticeboard for all to see, and hopefully, in time, the collection can be catalogued as part of Huntly’s history.

Bancon are currently working with our Protected Species specialists and Huntly Swift Group to ensure that nesting boxes and appropriate measures are taken to ensure that the returning swifts have suitable accommodation when they arrive, which isn’t far away now. We’re very grateful to Huntly Swift Group for their amazing help and advice in helping us to protect these important Huntly residents.

Meanwhile inside………

Many more features have been uncovered during the full strip-out of the building which have revealed a glimpse into what the interior would have looked like over 140 years ago.

All the walls of the ground and first floor original shop (the left hand side as viewed from the Square) were completely timber lined, floor to ceiling. Some of the ground floor front timber was partly painted (white) and probably had shelves fixed to it. The original shop floor was tiled with red and white tiled flooring which, with the painted shelves would have looked stunning when it was new.

Ground floor front shop

An extraordinary item was discovered boxed-in between the first and second floors – a very large plaster plinth which may have displayed a shop items or even a statue. Bancon took great care to remove this intact, including its very heavy frame so that it can be reinstated into the finished building. The photo below shows it lying on its face but gives you an indication of its size. Maybe someone knows what this was used to display? Please get in touch if you do. Ideas are welcomed for what this plinth could display in the future. It’s over five feet high with plaster cornicing, so there’s many possibilities – maybe something connected with Huntly’s historic figures?

This is the plinth showing its back, the curved top can be seen

The floors have all been removed from the back rear of the first floor in readiness for setting out the large steel framework for the cinema which has the effect of making the space, which was already large, seem vast.

The removal of the large amount of boxing in between ground and first floor had a huge impact on the atmosphere of the building – the large stained glass window now appears majestically sitting at height within the stone walls, and the atmosphere in this part of the building now feels like being transported back in time.

Some curious features have appeared which maybe local historians can shed light on, so more about that in the next post. Watch this space……..

Welcome to the Number 30 Blog

This blog will document the refurbishment of this beautiful building in Huntly town centre.

The eagerly awaited start of refurbishment work to Number 30 The Square, (former Cruickshanks building) has finally begun!

Whilst it probably feels like a long time since HDT purchased this building, it’s only a little over two years, during which time LDN Architects along with their Design Team have worked with HDT to design it, obtain Planning Permission, Listed Building consent and the Building Warrant then Tender for contractors. And crucially, significant funding has been secured in this time to carry out the work.

This complex process usually takes much longer than two years with numerous projects of this size taking many years to get to this point, so it’s great for the town that we’ve been able to get to this stage reasonably quickly.

The building schedule runs until December 2022, and then there will be a period for snagging and final fit-out, so its hoped that it will be fully ready in early Spring, 2023.

Through this blog, we will be able to regularly record the progress of the build with photos and information so everyone can see how the building work is developing.

Bancon Construction, who are carrying out the building work, have begun the full strip-out, which has revealed some of the fascinating history of this building, and a few surprises too. Old windows and door openings have been exposed, along with some well-preserved stonework to the wall of the former pend.

A Victorian stained-glass window has been revealed, which would have been in the original outside wall between the two buildings and inside the former pend. Although one pane is broken, this can be replaced, and the window kept in place.

Interesting items were found inside the walls which appear to have been placed there by builders around 1850, rather earlier than the datestone on the building of 1875. These artifacts will be re-installed in displays when the centre is completed.

The small figure is known as Frozen Charlotte, or sometimes they were called, Penny dolls. The name Frozen Charlotte apparently came from an American ballad about a little girl who was going to a Ball and didn’t want to cover up her pretty party dress with a coat, so she froze to death on the carriage ride. A little macabre, but historically quite fascinating. Only one is perfectly preserved, others were found to have missing pieces. The stone marbles are probably Victorian too.

Quite a large collection of very tiny (dolls house?) teapots, jugs and plates were inside the walls too and amazingly, even the teapot lids were preserved. These are only about 2cm high.

Over time, as the building was altered, spaces were enclosed, but the strip-out revealed a small hidden cupboard along with its brass coat hooks and wood panelling, giving a small vision of what the building would have looked like over 145 years ago.

More to follow soon…